As long-time readers know, this year I set a goal to read through all the works of Shakespeare. Last year I read Tolstoy’s War and Peace at the rate of one chapter a day (361 chapters in total). I liked working through something major at a reasonable pace. So I decided to do the same thing for Shakespeare.
I’ve been following someone else’s reading project that they did in 2020, and I can say, almost halfway through, that it’s been very manageable. Each play gets 5-6 days or so, but there is a buffer in between each work, and the person who created the calendar left off major holidays in 2020, so there is even more space built in. So I normally read 3-4 pages a day in my book of Shakespeare’s complete works, but if I read a little less, it’s OK. I take at least a day to read a plot summary in between each work so I know what I’m getting into. If it’s inconvenient to read my large Shakespeare book (e.g. I’m traveling) I read that chunk online.
I have not always loved it. Like any working artist who needed to get the next thing out there, Shakespeare was not nailing it every single time. (I do enjoy the commentaries that claim any of the not good stuff must not be Shakespeare…I recognize that he collaborated with people but still…can’t we imagine that sometimes he just needed to crank something out?). It’s also interesting to see, as I read through everything, how he re-used plot points and the known crowd-pleasing stuff.
But it’s also really cool to read the great works, and read some of the lesser-read works too. I just finished and actually enjoyed Pericles (incidentally, one of the works that people think Shakespeare didn’t completely write) and I probably never would have read it without my goal to read some Shakespeare every morning and to read through everything. So I’m glad I made this resolution. Now I just need to figure out what next year’s project will be! Any ideas?